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At more than 4,000 square feet, the Clemmons house Andrew and Holly Miller moved into about a year-and-a-half ago is bigger than most.
But Andrew Miller, half of the partnership in the Two Bald Brothers home construction company, says he went to great lengths to make sure the couple wasn’t swapping sustainability for size when it came time to build their own house.
“We’re kind of into green living,” Miller said. “It’s a big house, but we can still cut our (carbon) footprint.”
The first step was building energy efficiency into the house from the beginning. Now, the couple plan to add rooftop solar panels to their four-bedroom, five-bath house on nine acres near Styers Ferry Road.
The Millers are among more than 100 residents in Forsyth and Guilford counties combined who filed paperwork in April informing the state that they plan to go solar, according to a review of N.C. Utilities Commission documents.
Across the entire Triad region for the month, at least 177 residents filed a Report of Proposed Construction, which is required before arrays are added.
Solar systems with at least 2 megawatts of capacity require approval from the utilities commission, but owners of smaller arrays need only report the project to the state.
In Guilford, 61 property owners notified the commission that they planned home solar projects, while 40 Forsyth residents reported their intent to install panels.
At the city level within the Triad, Greensboro led the way with 41 notifications, followed by 27 for Winston-Salem
Those numbers pretty much align with historical solar statistics for Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Through the end of 2021, there were 535 residential solar installations in Greensboro and 512 in Winston-Salem, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.
But on a per-capita basis, Winston-Salem actually edged out Greensboro by the end of last year. There were two home solar arrays per 1,000 residents in Winston-Salem and 1.8 per 1,000 in Greensboro, NCSEA found.
Those figures ranked Winston-Salem fifth and Greensboro seventh among North Carolina’s 10 largest cities in per-capita home solar.
Cary (4.8 per 1,000) and Durham (4.4 per 1,000) had the highest rates of residential solar while High Point (0.6) and Fayetteville (0.3) were at the bottom among the state’s most-populous municipalities, according to NCSEA.
Among Triad-area counties outside Guilford and Forsyth, 33 Alamance residents (one-third of them in Burlington) told the state in April they planned to install home solar systems, followed by Randolph with 15, Rockingham with six, Surry and Stokes with three each, and one in Yadkin.
Statewide, there are more than 13,000 residential arrays with a combined 86 megawatts of capacity, according to NCSEA. That’s about 1.6% of North Carolina’s total of 5,445 megawatts of solar capacity.
While home solar continues to grow in the Triad and statewide, the utilities commission is considering a proposal from Duke Energy to change the way the company deals with residential solar customers.
Under current “net metering” rules, Duke pays customers for any electricity generated by solar panels beyond what is needed to power a property. The rate for the credit is the same rate the customer would pay Duke for electricity. Duke then sells that excess electricity to other power users at the same rate.
Duke wants to reduce the rate of those credits and adjust them based on time of day and energy demand, as well as charge solar customers a $10 monthly fee in addition to the fee all customers currently pay.
Critics say the proposed guidelines are too complicated and would reduce the value of electricity sold back to Duke as much as 35%.
“All signs point to net metering’s value being well above the retail cost of residential grid power, and vital to climate protection and our economy,” said Jim Warren, executive director of clean-energy advocacy organization NC WARN. “Duke Energy officials have no case for attacking rooftop solar.”
But at Duke Energy’s annual meeting last week, CEO Lynn Good said the rates paid to solar customers are unfair to traditional customers.
“We need to pay at a fair and reasonable rate, so that not only the customer who generates the power, but the customers who benefit from power are paying a fair amount,” she said.
Duke’s proposal has divided environmental and clean-energy advocates who typically are strong allies.
The proposed changes are part of a settlement agreement reached in November between Duke Energy; the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association; the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Vote Solar and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Sunrun Inc. and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
But NC WARN and several other advocacy groups have filed documents with the utilities commission detailing their opposition.
South Carolina approved similar rules for Duke Energy that went into effect last year. But Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week vetoed legislation that largely mirrored Duke’s North Carolina proposal.
In the Triad in April, out-of-state companies were involved with most residential solar filings with the state.
Blue Raven Solar led the way. The Utah-based company was listed as the contractor on documents submitted on behalf of 15 residents in Guilford County and another 11 in Forsyth.
Charleston, S.C.-based Palmetto Solar was identified as the installer on eight April filings each in Guilford and Forsyth.
The average projected costs for the systems were nearly $37,200 in Forsyth County and more than $40,350 in Guilford, according to the documents.
The most-expensive proposed home system in the Triad among the April submissions was $90,000 for a 14.58 kilowatt array on Summerdale Road in Elon.
Because the 1,668-square-foot home sits on a nearly 22-acre tract, the panels will be placed on the ground and not on the roof, according to the document.
Raleigh-based Southern Energy Management is listed as the contractor for that project.
The array on Andrew and Holly Miller’s Clemmons home is expected to cost more than $88,000, according to a Report of Proposed Construction filed with the utilities commission.
Andrew Miller said he also intends to install batteries that will store power.
“On rainy days, we won’t have to rely on the grid,” he explained.
Another Utah company, LGCY Power, is listed as the contractor for that project.
John Deem covers climate change and the environment in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina. His work is funded by a grant from the 1Earth Fund and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
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